“And yet,” resumed Rodin, after a moment’s reflection, and as if speaking to himself, “why not?”
And he added, addressing Djalma: “Would you really be so obliging, my dear prince? I should not have ventured to ask you this service.”
So saying, Rodin delivered the letter to Djalma, who read aloud as follows: “’Your visit this morning to Saint-Dizier House can only be considered, from what I hear, as a new act of aggression on your part.
“’Here is the last proposition I have to make. It may be as fruitless as the step I took yesterday, when I called upon you in the Rue Clovis.
“’After that long and painful explanation, I told you that I would write to you. I keep my promise, and here is my ultimatum.
“’First of all, a piece of advice. Beware! If you are determined to maintain so unequal a struggle, you will be exposed even to the hatred of those whom you so foolishly seek to protect. There are a thousand ways to ruin you with them, by enlightening them as to your protects. It will be proved to them, that you have shared in the plat, which you now pretend to reveal, not from generosity, but from cupidity.’” Though Djalma had the delicacy to feel that the least question on the subject of this letter would be a serious indiscretion, he could not forbear turning his head suddenly towards the Jesuit, as he read the last passage.
“Oh, yes! it relates to me. Such as you see me, my dear prince,” added he, glancing at his shabby clothes, “I am accused of cupidity.”
“And who are these people that you protect?”
“Those I protect?” said Rodin feigning some hesitation, as if he had been embarrassed to find an answer; “who are those I protect? Hem—hem—I will tell you. They are poor devils without resources; good people without a penny, having only a just cause on their side, in a lawsuit in which they are engaged. They are threatened with destruction by powerful parties—very powerful parties; but, happily, these latter are known to me, and I am able to unmask them. What else could have been? Being myself poor and weak, I range myself naturally on the side of the poor and weak. But continue, I beg of you.”
Djalma resumed: “’You have therefore every-thing to fear if you persist in your hostility, and nothing to gain by taking the side of those whom you call your friends. They might more justly be termed your dupes, for your disinterestedness would be inexplicable, were it sincere. It must therefore conceal some after-thought of cupidity.
“’Well! in that view of the case, we can offer you ample compensation—with this difference, that your hopes are now entirely founded on the probable gratitude of your friends, a very doubtful chance at the best, whereas our offers will be realized on the instant. To speak clearly, this is what we ask, what we exact of you. This very night, before twelve, you must have left Paris, and engage not to return for six months.’” Djalma could not repress a movement of surprise, and looked at Rodin.